In an episode of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION titled “In Theory”, Lt. Cmdr. Data is romanced by a young female officer. Unfortunately for her, he is an android and his programming does not allow for emotions, much less romance. After several awkward attempts at making a go of it, she gives up. Data asks, “Are we no longer a couple?”, she replies, “No”, and he says “Then I will delete the appropriate program”. End of story. Oh, if only it were that easy.
We’ve all had to deal with breaking up, either as the one doing it or the one having it done to us. Either way, it is never easy. We always wonder if there was some stone we left unturned, or if we could have at least handled the situation with a little more decorum. It is awfully hard to offer advice on how to receive the news that you are being dumped, but if you are the one ending the relationship, you can take the high road and make it as painless as possible for all involved.
Do it yourself. No texts, e-mails, or even answering machine messages. That is the coward’s way out. Respect them enough as people and former significant others to let them hear it straight from you.
Location is everything. Do it in a private place where you can not only talk, but freely express emotion. It is likely to happen, particularly if the other person doesn’t know it is coming. Take the time to explain to them why you made this decision and how it was arrived at. Again, they deserve to know.
Allow enough time for them to process the news. Again, this may be a newsflash out of nowhere as far as they are concerned. Let them have the time they need to process it and see if they have questions or want to talk. Just getting up and leaving is considered bad form.
Respect yourself and them. However things have ended up, remember that there was a time when you were drawn to and attracted to this person. Don’t become abusive or belittle them, and by all means do not talk down to or patronize them. Nothing constructive ever comes from such an approach.
Take the high road. Even if this person has hurt you, resist the urge to say hateful or demeaning things back to them. Always be the good guy.
Remaining friends. This is usually the biggest cop out in any break up scenario. Don’t use it unless you actually plan on following through with it. If you’ve had it with them and never wish to see them again, simply refrain from offering any false hope of future communication.
Wish them all the best, and mean it. Nothing is more useless than carrying around bitter emotional baggage for years after a breakup. Being able to wish the other person happiness and prosperity is a good sign that you have successfully processed your own personal issues.
Avoid the emotional games. Once the cord has been cut, leave it cut. Don’t toy around with them, suggesting getting back together or hanging out. The only end result will be confusion and additional hurt feelings. Make the break a clean one.
Give them space and time on their own. You may feel terrible about what you have done, and it might be a natural inclination for you to check in on them and see how they are doing. Resist the urge to do this. You need to move forward and so do they. Don’t call or hang out in places where you know they are likely to be. The longer you are away, the easier it will be for both of you to function on your own.
Stick to your guns. You may receive the phone call or text asking for the ubiquitous “second chance”. You may even feel guilty over your decision and be tempted to give in and give it to them. It is important to remember that you made the decision to break up for a reason, and you may need to remind yourself of exactly what that reason was. Usually, the farther away you find yourself removed from a relationship, it is usually easier to see things for what they really are.
So if you are facing the decision to drop somebody, just remember to keep it civil, and in all things make sure you are the good guy. As the song says, breaking up is hard to do, but if you make it easier on them, you’ll be surprised at just how good it will make you feel.